Summer Trip to Oregon, Part 1: Portland

Thursday started the “weddingpalooza” part of our summer: three out of town weddings in three weeks’ time.  There must be something in the air!  Up first was a wedding in Bend, Oregon, and seeing as how neither myself nor the hubs had ever really spent time in Oregon, we decided to come out a few days early and check out Portland as well.

photo 1We arrived in Portland on Thursday around dinner time, and proceeded to check into our hotel, The Nines, a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel in the heart of downtown.  The hotel itself is modern elegance personified – chandeliers everywhere, antique-looking damask patterns in bold colors, and sleek fixtures around every corner.

It’s also PRICEY.  The walk up rate for a standard room can be well over $500 a night, and if you were trying to stay here on Starwood points, it would take you 16,000 points per night (worth $336, if you value them according to The Points Guy).  However, this is a good lesson in why it’s worth it to spend the time to check multiple rates: I was able to use my company’s corporate rate to get our stay at $179 a night–nearly 50% off.  Putting this another way, we got to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go for about the same price as staying at the Hyatt Place by the Airport (an optimistic 3-star). (Click “continue reading” to see more!)

For our first meal in the city, we tried Sinju, a sushi restaurant that came highly recommended from a friend of mine, located in the Pearl District.  While the atmosphere of the restaurant was nice (and I would have loved to experience the traditional tatami rooms), we found the sushi just sort of average. The highlight was the tai (snapper) nigiri.

photo 3On the stroll back to the hotel, though, what we found strangest of all was that the city just seemed sort of dead.  It was only about 9pm but most restaurants were either already closed or closing, and even the bars were only about half full.  For the “Austin” of the Pacific Northwest, Portlanders sure seem to go to bed early!

However, the early evening put us in a great position to be able to get up early and explore all Portland had to offer on Friday.  First up was breakfast at the famed Voodoo Doughnuts.  A short 10-minute wait, and we had our chance to order the Tex-Ass, Voodoo Man, Captain My Captain, and Memphis Mafia.donutsThe Memphis Mafia was the clear winner – described as “fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top” this thing hands down wins the best-donut-I’ve-ever-tasted award.

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After breakfast, we headed up into the hills of Washington Park to visit the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Pittock Mansion. Between the gorgeous flowers and stunning views of the city, the entire experience was lovely, but my favorite part was just being around the huge, majestic pine trees.

Next up was lunch at Lardo, where we sampled a pork belly BLT, pork belly gyro, and “dirty fries” with cheese and pork belly lardons.  We had some local Oregon beers to wash it down, and sat out on their patio, soaking in the 70-degree weather.  The pork belly was rich and perfectly cooked – it ended up being our favorite meal of the entire trip.

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Post lunch, we headed over to Ground Kontrol, a vintage arcade in the Pearl District. I love classic arcade games, but to an Austinite…it was kind of a letdown.  (Austin’s Pinballz vintage arcade is about 4x larger with a much better selection of games.)  However, Ground Kontrol does win points for having my all time favorite pinball game, which is themed after the Addams Family movie.

Once the gaming was concluded, we strolled back downtown to enjoy happy hour at the Oregon Wines on Broadway, and, being a Friday evening, Portland finally started to come alive!  Happy hour was packed, and we both enjoyed flights of Oregon wines.  photo 1 (16)

For dinner, we headed to Andina, a Peruvian tapas restaurant that was positively hopping with a live band and packed house – not to mention some delicious bites.  My favorite was the trio of creme brulees for dessert (which I didn’t get a picture of because I was so eager to dive in!)  Afterwards, we stopped by the nearby Rogue Ales Public House for a quick sampler to cap off the evening.

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Portland the next morning.  But of course, we couldn’t leave without breakfast!  We ventured over to Broder Nord, an adorable Swedish restaurant in an industrial area just off the River.  Carl noshed on Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam and lemon curd, while I tried the Broder breakfast sandwich with a side of potato pancakes.  Everything was sinfully delicious and left us energized for the drive to Bend.

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All in all, we felt we got a nice taste of what Portland was all about before heading to our next adventure.  Did we miss anything?  Lemme know in the comments, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our trip soon.

Whitney